Movie Review: Rushmore (Or How to Dominate High School While Pulling C's)

Rushmore is about a brilliant high school school student, Max, who runs every club conceivable on campus, edits the student newspaper, and produces stellar theater productions….all while nearly failing his classes. He ends up being expelled from school amidst his efforts to hit on a teacher at his school.

A few people recommend this movie to me awhile ago and now I know why. It’s basically my story (except for the "brilliant" and "hit on a teacher" parts).

Let there be no mistake: I barely passed through high school. In perhaps the most extraordinary moment in secondary school history, I went into my final science exam sophomore year with a C-, failed the final, and still came away with a C-, the lowest possible passing grade. I was put on an academic watch list. My parents got phone calls home about my poor performance. But I passed.

In the meantime, I was amassing a tremendously rewarding stranglehold on inter-school communications. At one point in time I was concurrently editing the school paper (print), running a mythical radio station (radio), co-running the all-school-meeting current affairs announcements (in-person), and blogging (web). In the winters, with my friend Jason junior year and Howard/Andy senior year, I was captaining the varsity basketball team, which provided important credibility in the jock world, too.

Like Max in Rushmore, there were dark times. There were times when I thought to myself, "What in God’s name am I doing?" I remember doing Comcate sales phone calls in the yoga room of the YMCA (where it was quiet) and thinking, "Why the hell won’t I just lift some weights and go home and study?"

But as my friend Chris has said, "For better or worse, entrepreneurship is like heroin. It’s risky, it’s dangerous, and you may end up in the street, but it’s almost impossible to kick the habit."

Max Ficher in Rushmore, a true life entrepreneur, understands this. In one of the best lines of the movie, Max is told that notwithstanding his incredible extracurricular contributions he has to get his grades up or else he’ll be expelled. When his friend asks him what he’s going to do about it, he replies, "There’s only one thing I can do, and that is petition the administration not to kick me out."

Atta baby. While some may consider his reaction unreasonable — or unwise, as he did get kicked out in the end — it wasn’t for lack of enthusiasm. Max Ficher tried to adapt his school to himself. As the British playwright George Bernard Shaw once observed, "Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people." And progress, I should add, can still happen even if the individual fails in the attempt.

A great movie.

4 Responses to Movie Review: Rushmore (Or How to Dominate High School While Pulling C's)

  1. Chris Yeh says:

    Rushmore is one of my favorites as well, although Max and I are far less alike.

    I love the way he proceeds through life, a burning torch of vitality.

    I love they way he is both tremendously competent and incompetent all at once.

    I love the way he is incredibly sympathetic, yet does unsympathetic things.

    One of my favorite movies of all time, along with “The Full Monty.”

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  3. Alex says:

    I auditioned for that role when I was in 8th grade. Went into the casting agency, read the script, did a magic trick, and got out of there. They called up all the magic shops in San Francisco asking if they knew any teenagers who had talent as a magician and were interested in acting, I got the nod. (Apparently, originally, Max was going to be a good of one great talent, not the many talents he has in the final product) Nevertheless, I never got a call back. They ended up finding the main character (who happens to be martin scorcese’s nephew I think) at some socialite party. He met the director, and boom, got the part. A devastating and fatal blow to my acting career.

  4. Danielle Burhop says:

    Indeed–this is my favorite movie of all time

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